Wednesday, September 17, 2008

New site for Festival Preview

Hello festival-goers,

Festival Preview has recently gone through a major site upgrade and will now be posting festival news for all genres on the new beta version of The jazz section of the new site can be found here. Come sign up at the new site and join in on the fun!

Jessica Bailiff
Publishing Associate
Festival Preview

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Tix on sale for the Inland Empire Jazz Festival

Tickets went on sale yesterday for the Inland Empire Jazz Festival, which will be held on August 22, 23 and 24 in Cucamonga-Guasti regional park. The fesitivies will include family activities and feature the likes of Bobby Lyle, Tierra, Mark Wood, Elements, Tim Bowman and more.

All in all, the music will span New Orleans, jazz fusion, free funk and jazz pel.

The first day will offer most of the family activities and will be a special "Celebrate Community Day," catering especially to people with developmental disabilities. Advance tickets for the Saturday and Sunday, the 23rd and 24th, are $35 each, while tickets for Friday only costs $5.

For more information about the festival go to or call (877) 9-IEJAZZ.

Chevy Chase hosts Newport

Chevy Chase will host the Newport Jazz Festival, which will run from the 8th of August to the 10th, for the second year in a row. Listen for Chase randomly saying something rude about Jane Curtain at the festival's main stage in Fort Adams State Park.

Chase's relationship to jazz is actually a bit deepr than you might think. Both a drummer and pianist, he played the skins in a college jazz band with Walter Becker and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, and actually made such inroads as a performer and fan at New York jazz clubs that Miles Davis once asked him to sit in for a night in place of Davis's drummer Tony Williams.

Headliners for the Festival are Aretha Franklin, Sonny Rollins and Herbie Hancock. For more info on the festival, click here.

Litchfield Jazzfest on Aug. 1-3

The 13th Litchfield Jazz Festival starts on August 1st at the Goshen Fairgrounds in Litchfield, CT. Major performers this year include Paquito D'Rivera with the Zaccai Curtis Trio, Bebe Neuwirth, and the Winard Harper Sextet.

Besides the sets of the main performers, the festival kicks off with a Friends of the Festival Gala at the Winvian Resort & Spa and an afterparty and open jam session at the Heritage Hotel in nearby Southbury immediately following Conrad Herwig's headlining set.

There are several classes of tickets for the festival, starting with single-day lawn seat passes ($35 each), then moving up to single-day tent passes (each of which comes with a chair, and costs $55 ), a Friends of the Festival pass ($155) and Best Friends pass ($350). The main difference between the "Friends" passes is that the regular Friends pass includes the Gala, up-front concert seating and complimentary VIP parking for Friday night, while the Best Friends option also includes free parking all weekend and a special gift.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

In the arena at Monterey Jazz

You can have a great time at Monterey Jazz with just a grounds pass, seeing artists on at least five side stages. But you need an arena pass to see the festival's headline concerts. Ticket holders from previous years have first dibs on their last year's seats, or have a chance to move up.

New buyers always have an opportunity to get into the arena, but the seats always sell out well in advance. So this is a good time to be making plans to get your arena passes for the September 19-21 event.

Keep in mind that arena passes are sold for the full festival only. No single session tickets are available.

The arena lineup has plenty of highlights. Sunday night sets by Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter will follow a celebration of the collaboration between John Coltrane and vocalist Johnny Hartman. Another big tribute comes Saturday night, with Nancy Wilson, Terrance Blanchard and Tom Scott remembering the great Cannonball Adderly.

Other arena highlights include modernist Joshua Redman, vocalist Cassandra Wilson in her MJF debut, a funk jazz program with Ledisi and Maceo Parker, and various performances by artist in residence Christian McBride with various festival orchestras and a commissioned composer.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Pianomania at JVC New York

By kindofblue

I didn’t plan it this way — and I have a feeling the festival people didn’t either — but my experience of the JVC Jazz Festival in New York this year has been remarkably piano-centric.

Over the course of three nights this week, I got to see Brad Mehldau and Ethan Iverson, two of the outstanding jazz pianists of the under-40 generation, as well as Herbie Hancock, who needs no introduction (but who could have used a little guidance on how to organize a concert; more on that below). Earlier I had seen Cecil Taylor, George Cables, and (as part of a tribute to yet another pianist, Alice Coltrane) Geri Allen. And that’s not to mention the great pianists I didn’t get a chance to see: Kenny Barron, Hank Jones, Dick Hyman, and probably a few others whose names escape me at the moment.

It was probably just a coincidence — after all, none of the advertising or publicity put any particular emphasis on the wealth of pianistic talent. And this is not to suggest that there haven’t been some great performances by musicians who play other instruments. But coincidence or not, this year’s JVC bash has been an unusually sumptuous feast for lovers of great piano playing.

Brad Mehldau is always worth seeing, and to say that there was nothing out of the ordinary about his June 22 concert at Zankel Hall is not a criticism but simply an observation. He had his usual accompanists (Larry Grenadier on bass and Jeff Ballard on drums), as keenly attuned to the nuances of his playing as ever, and he was his usual thoughtful but not cerebral self, never flaunting his considerable technique but
always using it in the service of his fertile imagination. There was, on the other hand, something decidedly unusual about the June 24 concert at the New York Society for Ethical Culture by Ethan Iverson’s band, the Bad Plus.

I know, I know — the Bad Plus is a collective trio and technically not “Ethan Iverson’s band.” But the pianist is inevitably the center of attention in any piano-bass-drums trio, and however important the contributions of bassist Reid Anderson and drummer David King (as composers and musicians), Iverson tends to be the focal point of the Bad Plus, and he tends to make the most of that position.

This concert was quite different, though, because the Bad Plus was joined by a fourth musician, the amazing guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. (For the occasion the group was unimaginatively billed as the Bad Plus 1.) Given how smoothly the Bad Plus functions as a unit, the potential for a train wreck was always there, but it never materialized: Rosenwinkel was seamlessly integrated into the group, and the other musicians for long stretches of time lay back and happily functioned as nothing more or less than a very sympathetic rhythm section. The chemistry was impressive.

Chemistry, sad to say, was sorely missing at Herbie Hancock’s eagerly awaited Carnegie Hall concert on June 23. As one of the very few musicians to achieve success in the pop market without jeopardizing his status as a jazz great, Hancock has certainly earned the right to present whatever kind of concert he wants to. The main problem on this occasion was that he tried to do too much and didn’t stay in one bag for too long; as a result the concert had a diffuse, unfocused feel.

He had two singers with him to do material from his albums of Joni Mitchell songs and pop collaborations. The Mitchell songs would have sounded better with a more thoughtful singer than Sony Kitchell, but the U2 song “When Love Comes to Town,” though competently sung by Amy Keys, seemed more than a little out of place at a Herbie Hancock concert. At least he performed “Maiden Voyage” (in an impressionistic unaccompanied performance), “Cantaloupe Island” and a rousing “Chameleon,” which still sounds fresh more than three decades after its blend of jazz and electrified funk shocked the world. But the patchwork nature of the evening left a lot of listeners — including this one — scratching their heads.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A tale of two venues at JVC New York

By kindofblue

So far the JVC New York Jazz Festival is off to a good start at one of its new venues, the Concert Hall of the New York Society for Ethical Culture. The situation at another new venue, Le Poisson Rouge, has been a little different — for reasons having nothing to do with music.

The Ethical Culture hall, on the Upper West Side, has some acoustical problems, and the seats — pews, actually (the Ethical Culture Society is a kind of quasi-religion for people who don’t like religion) — aren’t all that comfortable. But all things considered it’s not a bad place to hear music, and so far it has hosted two outstanding, invigorating concerts.

The first was the tribute to Alice Coltrane on June 19, featuring her son Ravi Coltrane on saxophone, with Geri Allen on piano, Charlie Haden on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. The concert was inspired and inspiring; despite the spiritual nature of much of the music, the players never forgot to swing. It was a powerful enough evening to send me back to my Alice Coltrane albums, which is what a tribute should do.

The next night, the inimitable Cecil Taylor was in fine if surprisingly mellow form. Performing unaccompanied, he was recognizably himself — his attack was typically two-fisted, his atonality typically assertive — but his hour-long improvisation had moments of exquisite beauty as well.

I haven’t yet been to Le Poisson Rouge, on the site of the old Village Gate in Greenwich Village, but there is already a creepy vibe about the place. A concert by the acclaimed Swedish trio E.S.T. was canceled when the group’s leader, pianist Esbjorn Svensson, was killed in a diving accident. And Bill Frisell’s show was canceled because of an illness in the family. If I were a superstitious man, I would be worried that the place is haunted. Happily, I don’t think that way, and I hope to be checking the place out very soon.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Sonoma Jazz + has a Kool opening night

Last night Kool & The Gang kicked off the first night of the Sonoma Jazz + Festival in Sonoma CA. Known for songs like "Celebration," "Cherish," "Jungle Boogie," "Ladies' Night," and "Get Down on It," they have won two Grammy Awards and have over 30 Gold and Platinum Albums. According to the SJ+ program, they've been performing together for over 30 years. I've never had the opportunity to see them perform before last night and I was completely impressed with the show they put on. Their performance was seamless and their energy was contagious--people of all ages were up in front of the stage dancing. They had no problem getting the audience involved, whether it was singing the words to the songs or dancing or jumping to the funky beats. At the end of the night, they fired up the audience with a drum solo that led into their final song of the night, "Celebration."

The festival atmosphere inside the performance tent was fun and friendly. The tent itself was larger than I expected (even though I went in knowing it could hold 3000 people). It was large enough to necessitate two screens on either side of the stage broadcasting the performance for the people in the back and on the sides. The sound was great. The speakers were huge and I could feel the bass notes vibrating in my ribcage. Overall, the night was a success by my standards. I enjoyed the night and it was obvious that the people around me did too.

If you're going to attend the Sonoma Jazz + Festival, here are a couple things I learned from my experience last night:

  1. Bring a jacket. The performance tent was a pleasantly cool temperature, but by the time Kool & The Gang were finished and everyone was going back to their cars, it was windy and cold.
  2. Watch out for unmarked streets. I spent a lot of time being lost before I actually got to the festival. If you're unfamiliar with Sonoma, it would be a good idea to bring a map and/or a cell phone with you. Luckily I had a map with me and access to Google SMS, which provided me with directions that ended up getting me to the festival.
Make sure to stay tuned for more SJ+ coverage. Tonight's big performers are Al Green and Herbie Hancock. I can't wait!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sonoma Jazz + opens Memorial Day weekend

Every year Sonoma Jazz + (SJ+), sister to Jazz Aspen Snowmass, serves the quiet, mountain-nestled wine country town of Sonoma CA with world-class music. SJ+ is known for its excellent taste in music, having a history of scheduling top-notch artists like Tony Bennett, BB King, Natalie Cole, Isaac Hayes, Steve Winwood, and Dianne Reeves. Following in this tradition, SJ+ will open its 2008 festival season from May 22-25, featuring headlining acts Kool & The Gang (May 22), recent Grammy Award winner, Herbie Hancock (May 23), Al Green (May 23), Diana Krall (May 24), and closing the festival on the 25th will be Al Jarreau and Bonnie Raitt.

With room for over 3000 people, the main performances of the night will be held in a tent in the Field of Dreams, just two blocks away from the historic Sonoma Central Plaza. The earlier evening performances will be held on the Village Stage. Seating for events on the Village Stage opens half an hour before the start time and the main tent opens one hour prior to commencement.

Being held smack dab in the middle of wine country, Sonoma Jazz + will celebrate the viticulture that has visually enriched the landscape of the county by hosting the Wine & Song Around the Plaza. This daytime event will spotlight local music and local wineries. Tickets for Wine & Song Around the Plaza are available for $60, which includes a souvenir wine glass & tote, 7 performances by local musicians, 12 wine tastings and 4 food tastings daily. Wine & Song will be held May 24th and 25th from 2-5 PM.

Sonoma Jazz + prides itself on its marriage of fine musical entertainment and the highest quality cuisine. To fully experience all Sonoma Jazz + has to offer, private hospitality tents, or casitas, are offered for festival attendees and their guests. The casita package includes a private decorated tent, specialized menu with wine pairings, full bar, private wait staff and security, private lavatories, and premium patron seating in the main tent in the Field of Dreams. (This package requires a minimum of 20 guests and is sold per day4.)

As a not-for-profit organization, the festival aims to bring not only the best live music entertainment to the community, but music education into local schools. SJ+ has played a role in several youth-oriented programs, including Guitars in the Classroom and Opera a la Carte, allowing students to gain an in depth understanding of what goes into musical events from the production side as well as the aspects of learning to play and practice instruments.

Tickets for all Sonoma Jazz + events can be purchased online or over the phone by calling 866-527-TIXX. Visit their Web site for more information.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Newport balances legends and newcomers

With all-time greats Sonny Rollins and Herbie Hancock as headliners, the 2008 Newport Jazz Festival (August 8-10, Newport RI) lays its usual claim to the history and tradition of jazz, but the program announced today places significant emphasis on modern directions in the music.

"There are some acts that are favorites from the festival's past, but then half the fun of Newport Jazz has always been the discovery of the next generation of musicians through stand alone shows and great collaborations," said Tom Shepard, CEO of The Festival Network, in a press release.

The Festival Network is the successor company to Festival Productions Inc., the long-time producer of the festival. The legendary George Wein who created the festival makes an appearance on the main stage playing piano with the Newport All-Stars, but his control of the event has been passed on to the new management.

The appearance by Sonny Rollins is notable since he has not appeared at Newport for many years. Other renowned players set for 2008 include Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland and the Charlie Haden/Ethan Iverson/Paul Motian trio.

The popular smooth-jazz trumpet player Chris Botti is the third headliner, closing the main stage on Saturday and anchoring the Friday night opening concert at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The Saturday and Sunday schedule takes place as usual at Fort Adams State Park in Newport.

Among less traditional fare, there will be a strong R&B flavor with Ledisi, Soulive with Fred Wesley and the Anthony Hamilton Blues Project. Lionel Loueke Trio brings in an African influence, while the Marco Benevento Trio with Chris Potter crosses over in a rock direction. Lesser known entries playing more traditional jazz styles include Empirical, Guillermo Klein y Los Gauchos, and Warren Vache Quintet.

One yet-to-be-named act will be chosen by the general public from ensembles submitting audition tracks to Tickets go on sale May 8 at the Festival Network website.

The full lineup follows:

Friday, August 8, 2008 - 8:00pm
International Tennis Hall of Fame at the Newport Casino
Chris Botti

Saturday, August 9, 2008 - 11:30am - 7:00pm
Fort Adams State Park

JVC Jazz Stage
Chris Botti
Wayne Shorter Quartet
Dave Holland-Gonzalo Rubalcaba-Chris Potter-Eric Harland

Pavilion Stage
Haden - Iverson - Motian
Warren Vache Quintet
Brian Blade Fellowship

Waterside Stage
Lettuce with special guest Fred Wesley
Aaron Goldberg Trio
Christian Scott

Sunday, August 10, 2008 - 11:30am - 7:00pm
Fort Adams State Park

JVC Jazz Stage
Sonny Rollins
Herbie Hancock
Anthony Hamilton Blues Project
George Wein & The Newport All-Stars with Anat Cohen, Howard Alden, Esperanza Spalding, Jeff Ballard

Pavilion Stage
Marco Benevento Trio with special guest Chris Potter
Guillermo Klein y Los Gauchos
Christ Potter's Underground
Mark Rapp Band

Waterside Stage
Soulive with special guest Fred Wesley
Lionel Loueke Trio
Experanza Spalding
Empirical (UK) winner